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Travel discounts for seniors are there for the asking

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If you're a senior citizen looking for travel discounts, the byword is: Question, question, question. Discounts are there, but it may take persistence with travel agents to dig them out. And ask for all the comparative information that helps you distinguish among excursion rates, weekend rates, and off-season rates. To help you sort through the maze of current offerings, here are some suggestions: Organizations offer discounts

One way to become eligible for discounts is to join a seniors organization. Members of the huge American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) get special rates on some auto rentals and hotels. For instance, Avis and National offer 40 percent off on normal time and mileage rates, or a flat rate of $33 and $32 a day (respectively) on a subcompact.

Most Best Western, Econo-Lodges, Holiday Inns, Howard Johnsons, Hospitality Internationals, Quality Internationals, and Rodeway Inns offer a 10 percent discount to AARP members, while La Quinta offers 20 percent off and Sheraton, 25 percent. Most Marriott hotels (75 percent of them) offer a 50 percent discount to AARP members.

Members must be at least 50 years old. For membership information, call (202) 872-4700 or write 1909 K Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20049. The cost is $5 a year per person or couple.

There is no bottom age limit to join the National Council of Senior Citizens, though most members are over 60. Some of the advantages: 25 percent off Avis rentals, 15 percent off Ramada Inns (25 percent on weekends). Perhaps of greatest interest to travelers is the council's unusual travel program to low-cost resorts in Europe. One example: a three-week trip to France for $1,399 (all inclusive, plus 15 percent sales tax). Membership costs $8 a year, $10 per couple. Write 925 15th Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20005, or call (202) 347-8800.

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